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Astute Networks launches flash appliance to speed performance of VMware storage

Astute Networks rolls out ViSX G3 flash appliance designed to improve the performance of storage for heavy-duty VMware environments.

Astute Networks today introduced its network-based ViSX G3 flash appliance, which improves storage performance in heavily virtualized VMware environments. The Astute device offloads I/O traffic from servers and uses flash memory to store more frequently accessed data while routing less frequently used data to hard disk drives in back-end storage.

The ViSX G3 comes in three models, each with two blades that hold 12 enterprise multi-level cell (eMLC) flash modules. The ViSX G3 1200 contains 1.2 TB of flash, the 2400 supports 2.4 TB of flash, and the 4800 supports 4.8 TB of flash. The 3U devices plug into a Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) or 10 GbE network, and the appliances appear to the virtual machines as an iSCSI connection.  

The ViSX G3 1200 model costs $29,000, the 2400 is $59,000, and the 4800 is $94,000.

Astute Networks claims the ViSX G3 alleviates performance bottlenecks caused by placing too many virtual machines on one physical server.  The ViSX G3 plugs into an organization’s network and can work with an existing SAN or NAS system.

“You get 80,000 read random or sequential IOPS performance from every G3 you add to the network,” said Keith Klarer, Astute Networks’ vice president of hardware engineering.  “It provides high performance in a low-power package. That is why we can provide network performance at fewer than 300 watts in a 3U rack space.”

Astute Networks sees the ViSX G3 as a lower-cost and more effective alternative to using flash in a SAN array, an external direct-attached storage box or as a PCIe card on the server.

The appliance’s core technology is its DataPump Engine silicon, which offloads and accelerates TCP/IP and iSCSI traffic and delivers sustained flash performance by selecting data packets to be cached in the acceleration device. The goal is to provide flash performance where it is needed most.

“This has been created by telecom geeks,” said James Bagley, senior analyst at Storage Strategies Now. “[DataPump]’s a massively integrated computer chip that can sit on a 10 [GbE] Ethernet network and monitor blocks and packets, and [it] determines whether to pull the data into the system and keep it in cache. If a block is hot, it will keep it on high-performance SSDs.”

Visioneer accelerates apps without adding servers

Document scanner manufacturer Visioneer Inc. installed a ViSX G3 2400 to alleviate a major slowdown in applications including SAP, Microsoft Exchange 2010 and SharePoint after virtualizing all of its servers. Visioneer CIO Walt Thinfen said the company’s SAP processing times took minutes instead of seconds, nightly backups took up to six hours, and users’ emails were getting held up in the relay server before he installed the ViSX G3 device.

“We had two [other] options,” he said. “We could convert back to the physical servers or buy more servers. Both choices were not acceptable. We didn’t want to go back to the physical servers, and the option of spending a lot of money was not in the cards for us.”

Visioneer put its ViSX G3 2400 into production on a 10 GbE network about a month ago. Thinfen said the read performance has increased 1,500% on critical applications, and there has been a marked increase in the responsiveness of database applications.

“We are able to process orders, and folks are able to get their emails. Plus, we have shortened our backup windows. It’s taking less than two hours to do [nightly] backups,” Thinfen said.

Jon William Toigo, CEO and managing principal of Toigo Partners International LLC, said there are other uses for the ViSX G3 than as an offload device–such as for sub-LUN tiering and caching.

“They are using it in a straightforward way, but I can see a lot of use cases,” he said. “A lot of third-party developers can write to it to create a lot of cool things.”

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