Storage is at an amazing inflection point where performance is being extricated from capacity to optimize application behavior and cost effectively scale IOPS, without disrupting years of investment in shared storage infrastructure, said Satyam Vaghani, CTO and co-founder of PernixData. By making FVP easy to deploy in any environment, and robust enough to accelerate any virtualized application using flash or RAM, we are making decoupled storage architectures the de facto standard in virtual data centers, he said in the announcement of the update to the company’s flagship flash virtualization performance software. The company’s FVP software virtualizes flash and RAM across servers to create a clustered pool of high-speed resources that accelerate reads and writes to shared storage. It said that by putting storage intelligence into servers, FVP decouples storage performance from storage capacity for 10x faster virtualized applications, unlimited IOPS (where and when they are needed), and 90% lower storage costs. “PernixData has taken great measures to make software-based storage acceleration easy to deploy and scale in any virtual data center,” said Colm Keegan, Senior Analyst at Storage Switzerland, in a prepared statement. “By creating a solution that seamlessly integrates with any application, host, or storage platform, PernixData has made server-side storage acceleration a strategic infrastructure investment for companies of all sizes.” Analyst Mike Matchett, Taneja Group, was equally bullish about expanding the resource pooling concept to let VM admins include server RAM in the cache tier with flash. “We think this is a great move as we expect RAM prices to keep dropping, and over time flash to creep closer to the CPU. Practically, this means that whatever performance mix and/or price point one can make between RAM and flash will work, or rather, whatever resources one might already have are completely leverageable.” He added that the PernixData claims that now supported backend storage can be any external file, block, or server DAS disk might provide longer shelf life to legacy storage when fronted by FVP for performance. “So FVP is an acceleration solution that can be dropped in with no change to current storage architectures, which makes adoption pretty easy.” Introduced last August, FVP aggregated server-side flash to allow any server running the software to access flash on any other host in its cluster. The software installs inside VMware’s hypervisor and supports VMware’s vMotion, Distributed Resource Scheduler, High Availability and Snapshot capabilities. The new version supports up to 2 TB of RAM per host, and because it’s in the hypervisor, PernixData wants to be owner of the RAM, said Vaghani. “We’re now managing RAM that VMs are using. We are using an insane amount of RAM.” PernixData came about because storage is struggling to keep up with virtual data centers, said Jeff Aaron, VP of Marketing. Basically, companies are buying capacity to get performance, and approach which is expensive, inefficient and may not solve their problems, he told IT Trends & Analysis. The solution – or at least the one from PernixData – is to decouple performance from capacity, via software. “While other people are talking about software-defined storage, we’re actually delivering… (we) moved storage intellingence into the compute layer”. The company has acquired more than 100 customers in the 8 months its been shipping product, ranging from SMBs to mega-enterprises like Toyota and Apple, said Aaron. In addition to driving sales through the channel, it has partnered with Dell globally, as well as with flash vendors. George Crump, Storage Switzerland, said three factors – the rise of the Hypervisor, the seemingly endless supply of CPU power, and the widespread availability of Flash SSD – are forcing legacy storage architectures to dramatically change while enabling improved storage architectures to emerge. While he has concerns with these architectures, he has suggested to storage managers that they at least consider server-side/converged storage as a potential solution to a variety of storage challenges they have. “Let’s be clear, the reason server-side/converged storage solutions exist is that shared storage is not perfect, nor is it for every data center. Shared storage presents an upfront cost issue, a perceived complexity issue and potentially, a performance/latency issue.” The question, said Crump, is not which approach is best, but which approach is best for your data center both now and long term? In addition, the decision is not exclusively an either or decision. “Just like data centers today have multiple types of storage systems, they more than likely will have a mixture of server-side/converged and shared storage in the future.” Two weeks ago Keegan cautioned about augmenting virtual machine (VM) performance without discarding investments in existing storage systems, and preferably without ‘breaking the bank’. “Additionally, it is equally important to implement solutions that can seamlessly integrate into the virtualized infrastructure, are unobtrusive to application workloads and provide the high levels of data availability and resiliency that today’s 24x7xforever environments demand; all while significantly enhancing application read and write IO performance.” He noted that by integrating directly into the VMware hypervisor, solutions like FVP are designed to seamlessly accelerate VM storage IO performance without necessitating costly and highly disruptive storage array upgrades. “FVP decouples storage performance from storage capacity by promoting the most active data sets into a server-side “data acceleration network”, while enabling existing hard disk storage systems to focus on protecting less frequently accessed, inactive data.” Keegan said FVP software can bridge the storage performance gap in VMware environments through a simple software deployment that is completely transparent to the hypervisor, and as importantly, this can be achieved without impacting the supportability of the environment. “Furthermore, by eliminating the need to rip and replace existing storage systems, FVP gives IT organizations a financially viable way to sustain high performance for their key business applications.” Looking ahead, PernixData plans to expand its addressable market beyond VMware. It accounts for 80% of the market, so it made sense to start there, but the company will be adding support for other hypervisors in the near future. The Fiddly Bits (& Bytes) Currently available in limited release, new PernixData FVP software features include: -virtualize any high-speed server resource; FVP lets you add RAM, flash or a combination of the two into an FVP cluster, creating an enterprise-wide acceleration tier that is completely fault tolerant; -optimize any storage device; FVP supports both file (e.g. NFS) and block (e.g. iSCSI, fibre channel, FCoE) protocols, as well as local datastores; -FVP “metro clustering” for synchronous replication; allows for synchronous replication between hosts for complete fault tolerance, and now IT administrators can software define which hosts participate in replica groups, enabling synchronous mirroring to take place between the right hosts in a metro cluster environment; and, -RPO alignment for seamless asynchronous replication; adds new tools to ensure write information stored in server flash and/or RAM for acceleration purposes is always protected when performing asynchronous replication between shared storage devices.