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ViaWest chooses SolidFire flash array for performance, storage QoS

Cloud services provider ViaWest deployed SolidFire's pure SSD array in its data center for its storage quality of service (QoS).

Denver-based cloud service provider ViaWest turned to a SolidFire all-flash array for the underlying storage of its cloud to improve performance and management.

Matt Wallace, ViaWest's director of cloud architecture, knew an all-flash array would give him a performance boost, but he also needed to manage that performance for multiple customers. That led him to SolidFire, which offers granular quality of service (QoS) for its flash arrays aimed at cloud providers.

ViaWest has 24 data centers in North America. The provider offers colocation, managed services and public and private cloud hosting.

ViaWest's cloud computing environment is based on Cisco Systems Inc.'s Unified Computing System (UCS) hardware, switching fabric and virtualization support. Wallace said he had a tough time finding a storage system to keep up with his compute and memory density.

SolidFire went public with its plans for an all-solid-state storage system targeted at service providers in June 2011, and announced general availability on Nov. 13.

Wallace came to know of SolidFire through ViaWest's Chief Technology Officer, Jason Carolan, who worked at Sun Microsystems (now part of Oracle Corp.) with Daniel Berg, SolidFire's vice president of engineering.

To provide the performance and storage QoS capabilities ViaWest needed, Wallace acquired and clustered five SF3010 storage nodes in September to evaluate them. Each node provides 3 TB of raw capacity and up to 50,000 IOPS. Wallace said SolidFire's compression and deduplication capabilities give him 60 TB of effective capacity.

Wallace said he evaluated several of the all-solid-state drive (SSD) arrays on the market before choosing SolidFire. He likes SolidFire's granular quality of service capability, which lets him set guarantees separately for performance and capacity.

He can finely tune the minimum and maximum IOPS that each customer can use to avoid situations where one customer dominates storage-computing resources at the expense of other customers who are sharing the same physical equipment.

"While VMware and other hypervisor technologies have historically done an excellent job of regulating access to processor and memory resources, there's always been a risk of noisy neighbor problems with respect to shared storage platforms. No traditional storage platform has a level of quality of service control that allows us to tune that control that granularly," Wallace said.

To offer service-level agreements (SLAs) with IOPS guarantees ViaWest must control the amount of IOPS individual customers could command.

"SolidFire helps solve that problem for us in two ways," Wallace said. "It's a pure SSD-based platform, and obviously you're just getting dramatically faster performance from an SSD-based platform versus rotational disk.

"And second, SolidFire has software that offers a finely grained, highly controlled quality of service that you can tune on a per-volume basis. We can now go to a customer who has a need for a specific level of disk performance, and guarantee those IOPS. And that, from my perspective, is really the killer app of the platform."

Wallace said SolidFire's scale-out architecture lets him increase capacity and performance by non-disruptively adding nodes to the existing cluster. That's important to him because if ViaWest is successful with its managed services, it will need to quickly add storage to meet demand.

Wallace said he deployed SolidFire nodes in one afternoon, and the startup's support includes a virtual appliance that monitors the system. The virtual appliance detected and corrected a time-syncing problem before anybody from ViaWest noticed it.

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