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SolidFire SSD array gets plug-in for VM-level QoS

Software plug-in for SolidFire SSD array enables its all-flash systems to communicate with VMware's vSphere Storage I/O Control.

SolidFire Inc. today added a free software plug-in that will enable its all-flash arrays to interoperate with VMware's vSphere Storage I/O Control to regulate storage performance to individual virtual machines.

SolidFire SSD arrays are noted for their quality of service (QoS) capabilities and they have been marketed primarily to cloud service providers. But the VMware plug-in is part of the Boulder, Colorado-based company's attempt to expand its customer base to enterprise IT users.

"Since VMware represents the largest hypervisor market share in the mid-market, it is important for SolidFire to provide this capability," said James Bagley, a senior analyst at Storage Strategies Now (SSG-Now), an industry analyst firm based in Austin, Texas.

Jay Prassl, vice president of marketing at SolidFire, said the plug-in will enable VMware's Storage I/O Control (SIOC), which provides basic QoS capability, to allocate and guarantee storage performance for every virtual machine (VM) within a virtual environment. The software plugs into VMware vCenter and enables communication with the SolidFire storage to occur more accurately, according to Prassl.

"This now allows a VMware administrator to have end-to-end quality of service within their virtual machine environment, from the virtual machine itself, where you can set certain parameters, all the way through to the storage for that VM," Prassl said.

Prassl said that VM administrators often move the volumes associated with VMs from one data store to another data store and the plug-in allows the SolidFire storage to "kind of tag along with that mobility" to ensure that "the performance of that volume will go right along with it."

Eric Burgener, a research director in storage at Framingham, Massachusetts-based International Data Corp. said arrays such as the SolidFire SSD array that simultaneously handle the real-time I/O for multiple storage workloads can experience a "noisy neighbor" problem in which I/O spikes associated with one workload impact the latency or throughput of another workload. The problem can become worse with the addition of more workloads, he noted.

"This is a big concern for data centers," Burgener wrote via email. "What data centers want are storage systems that provide predictable performance as they scale, no matter what else is going on with other workloads on that array. When most array vendors talk about QoS, this is really what they are trying to get at."

George Crump, president and founder of Storage Switzerland LLC, said one of the challenges associated with QoS is that each layer of the infrastructure implements it separately. "The importance of this announcement is now QoS can be controlled in a more end-to-end fashion," he wrote via email.

VMware Inc. did not respond by press time to requests for comment on the number of all-flash vendors that support vSphere SIOC for interoperation with their storage systems, but SSG-Now's Bagley said that many vendors provide a plug-in or direct interoperability with vSphere.

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