Caching software adds IOPS to solid-state storage


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Just because storage vendors now support server-side flash with software doesn’t mean they’re getting into a whole new hardware line -- at least not yet. EMC packages VFCache with qualified PCI Express (PCIe) flash products, such as a 700 GB single-level cell (SLC) card. EMC also supports the LSI Nytro WarpDrive in the Cisco UCS B-series blades. These come in 400 GB and 800 GB multi-level cell (MLC) cards. VFCache supports multiple cards for larger workloads and split card implementations.

NetApp has developed a strategic reseller agreement with Fusion-io to bundle Flash Accel with Fusion-io’s ioDrive line of NAND flash cards. NetApp also qualifies other flash hardware vendor offerings as partner alliances. Both Proximal Data AutoCache and VeloBit HyperCache support a variety of PCIe and SSD hardware products, sold separately. It’s a matter of installing the hardware and downloading the software.

An end to wasted capacity

Prior to solid-state storage, array vendors and storage managers devised creative ways to spread data sets across multiple devices to harness the aggregate performance of the grouped devices. To avoid contention, active data sets can’t be located on the same devices. The result can be adequate performance at the cost of gross

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inefficiencies in capacity utilization. When storage devices are only 20% utilized, then the cost per GB stored is five times the purchase price. Moreover, the cost per IOPS is also five times.

IT managers need to examine where the performance bottleneck is in their environment. If the problem is I/O, then solid-state storage is likely the answer. In VM deployments, I/O is very likely to be a culprit and server-based flash with the appropriate solid-state software can be a viable solution. Both EMC and NetApp have professional services and software tools to help identify performance issues and usage patterns, as do numerous third-party organizations. Proximal Data offers a dashboard to illustrate I/O by host and guest OS on a storage device or LUN. Properly implemented, server I/O problems can be solved, ahem, in a flash.

BIO: Phil Goodwin is a storage consultant and freelance writer.

This was first published in October 2012

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