Storage start-up Montilio is set to announce a network adapter and software it says will accelerate file server performance by as much as three to six times.

At Storage Decisions in Chicago next week, the company will unveil RapidFile, a PCI-Express adapter, which loads proprietary File Server Re-Director (FSRD) software that bypasses the server memory and PCI bus, thus reducing latency and speeding file-server processing, Montilio says. In effect, RapidFile is a plug-in PCI-X card with the equivalent of a Fibre Channel HBA on board. It has two gigabit Ethernet TOE ports connecting to the client network, and two 2 Gigabit (QLogic) Fibre Channel ports that connect to the storage subsystem. Both replace existing interfaces normally used in servers.

CEO Michael Tsuk says that traditionally two activities are involved in file serving - processing client requests for data and moving data between the storage subsystem and client - both of which cause latency. The latter process takes considerably more bandwidth.

Companies such as Alacritech and Neterion have attempted to alleviate this burden by using Remote Direct Memory Access and TCP Offload Engines, approaches Tsuk says are more designed to accelerate network traffic than make file processing more efficient. (Intel also has its I/O AT approach, inended to make the whole file access and sever processing more efficient.)

Montilio states: "RapidFile, a plug-in to file servers, solves the performance bottlenecks that plague traditional file servers. By separating the control and data paths, RapidFile increases file server data transfer performance by 3x to 6x. The result: a single processor server that performs like a 4-CPU or 8-CPU server - without the multi-CPU price tag." There is no change to application software needed. The advantage is that you can, Montilio says, use cheap servers for expensive servers' file serving jobs.

In effect, FSRD creates an alternate data path between the client and storage and redirects traffic across it, thus alleviating the server memory from processing file data. A white paper can be accessed here.

In a test described on the Montilio site, a single Xeon CPU server with 256MB of on-board cache served 52MB/sec with a 100 percent CPU load. Then the RapidFile plugin was plugged in. It subsequently served 407MB/sec with a 97 percent CPU loading. A description of the test is accessible here.

Arun Taneja, founder of Taneja Group, says RapidFile could reduce the need for customers to put in faster, more efficient, network-attached storage (NAS). Taneja also stated: "We believe that RapidFile is a classic example of a disruptive technology that has the potential to redefine the parameters of the file server market."

"What Montilio offers is a way for a Linux file server to deliver NAS-like performance, using standard server software," Taneja says. "The add-in card is a simple way to jazz up thousands of general-purpose servers that are being used as file servers. RapidFile could reduce, if not eliminate, the need for many to buy NAS boxes."

"RapidFile brings the concept of control and data separation to the world of file servers, alleviating congestion while maximizing data transfer," Tsuk said. "In addition, there is no need for Fibre Channel HBA and TOE accelerator boards as the functionality of both is built in."

RapidFile, which works in Linux file servers, costs $3,900 (about £2,200). A Windows version could be available in the fourth quarter.