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Taneja Blog / Primary Storage / Software Defined/Virtualized Infrastructure

New Solutions Deliver Non-Disruptive, Flash-Powered Acceleration, Outside of the Array

When it comes to increasing storage performance, all-flash storage arrays (AFAs) have tended to grab the spotlight for the past few years. Both startups and established vendors have unveiled a steady stream of AFAs, praising their performance capabilities but often glossing over the implementation details, including the cost and effort required to integrate them effectively into shared storage infrastructures and ensure they are efficiently utilized as a “Tier 1” storage resource. While we believe AFAs have been a good fit for a number of primary storage use cases, we are disappointed that AFA hype has overshadowed other performance offerings, such as server-side acceleration solutions, that also deserve buyer attention.

While server-side acceleration solutions have been around for a number of years, buyers have traditionally viewed them primarily as a tactical approach to address the needs of specific, underperforming applications. No doubt, some early PCIe-enabled caching offerings saw much success, but they also had limitations. For example, acceleration was generally restricted to apps on a single host, and when deployed in a virtualized environment, the absence of policies often prevented acceleration solutions from giving priority to customers’ most critical workloads. Buyers tended to overlook these limitations, because the solutions were a tactical response to an application-specific pain point. Though many buyers may still think of server-enabled acceleration as a tactical approach, that is a mistake, because a whole new generation of server acceleration solutions is now poised to come to market.

Western Digital just announced two outstanding examples of such solutions this week: FlashSoft 4.0 for vSphere 6, and the Flash Virtualization System. Developed by the SanDisk engineering team, these offerings are designed to accelerate virtualized workloads running in VMware vSphere environments. FlashSoft software 4.0 is a host-based caching data service tightly integrated with vSphere under the vSphere APIs for IO Filtering (VAIO) framework and certified VMware Ready, enabling high levels of reliability and performance. The Flash Virtualization System combines FlashSoft software with Fusion ioMemory PCIe cards and SanDisk ION Accelerator software to provide a shared caching resource that benefits all hosts in a vSphere cluster.

These acceleration solutions are less disruptive than an AFA approach: neither requires an additional investment in storage infrastructure or changes to management tools and practices. The solutions selectively accelerate companies’ most critical applications based on pre-defined, VM-centric policies. Both FlashSoft for vSphere and Flash Virtualization System help to increase VM density, enabling firms to save on server hardware and application software licensing costs. By offloading many IO requests from an existing SAN, the solutions also help users to extend the life of existing shared storage infrastructure. Customers in highly regulated industries such as government or health care won’t need to worry about compliance, because their storage infrastructure will not change.

While all-flash arrays are a great solution for many workloads, we believe customers should think more broadly, including outside the array, as they consider how best to accelerate application performance. The new SanDisk-developed solutions from Western Digital are leading examples of a server-driven approach, and are worthy of buyers’ consideration.

  • Premiered: 06/24/16
  • Author: Jeff Byrne
Topic(s): Flash Virtualization VMWare SanDisk Western Digital


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