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PernixData broadens I/O caching software support

PernixData caches data across pools of flash, RAM, or a combination of the two.

PernixData Inc. has expanded its virtualized I/O caching software, adding support for RAM and files and making it available in four new versions.

PernixData FVP software caches virtualized high-speed server resources to accelerate application performance. It accelerates reads and writes, speeding performance of applications such as virtual desktop environments and I/O-intensive databases.

PernixData first brought out its FVP software in August 2013. The 1.0 version pooled flash across devices, to be used for a cache for block storage (Fibre Channel and iSCSI).

PernixData FVP 2.0 can pool RAM as well as flash, allowing customers to speed performance using RAM, flash or both. It also supports NFS file storage and local direct-attached storage.

FVP installs inside the VMware hypervisor kernel, allowing any virtual machine to pull data off any resource in the cluster. It intercepts application writes and sends them to flash or RAM to reduce latency.

"We're converting RAM from a volatile technology to a non-volatile technology," said Jeff Aaron, PernixData's vice president of marketing. "If you happen to lose a piece of memory, you haven't lost the data. You can use RAM as an enterprise-class storage acceleration medium."

For fault tolerance, data can be replicated from flash or RAM to another node. The 2.0 version includes user-defined fault domains that let users determine where data gets replicated.

"If you have a specific chassis or location for disaster recovery services, we can replicate there," Aaron said.

PernixData also added what it calls adaptive network compression to reduce traffic going over the network.

New FVP versions

FVP is now available in five versions. The original version has been branded FVP Standard, which supports flash or RAM -- but not both -- with no limits on the number of hosts in a cluster. The new versions are FVP Enterprise, FVP Subscription, FVP VDI and FVP Essentials Plus.

FVP Enterprise can be used on flash, RAM or a combination of both. It also includes resource management for fault tolerance and has no limits on the number of hosts in a cluster. The enterprise version also supports write-back acceleration through fault domains and built-in resource management.

FVP Subscription is similar to the Enterprise product, but is tailored for service providers and licensed per host. FVP VDI is licensed per virtual desktop, and FVP Essentials Plus supports three hosts and up to 100 virtual machines running VMware's vSphere Essentials Plus SMB package.

Pricing ranges from $50 per desktop in the VDI bundle to approximately $7,500 for an FVP cluster license.

Can it fly as standalone software?

PernixData admits its software does caching, but doesn't characterize FVP as a caching application. The vendor describes FVP as decoupling performance from capacity. But, like other software-defined storage plays, the company may have trouble convincing customers to buy its product decoupled from hardware.

 "The breadth of PernixData's solution is good," said Mark Peters, an Enterprise Strategy Group senior analyst. "Many people do little parts of what they do, and some have server-based caching software to take advantage of what's in the server. But not many work across servers. It’s an easy value proposition. You put the software in, it uses what’s there and everything goes faster."

But Peters said PernixData faces a go-to-market challenge, and may require partners to make it.

"There's a traditional hesitance from buyers to mix and match things -- to get storage from somewhere and add software to make it run faster on a server or PCIe card from somebody else," he said. "The preference of buyers is to bundle, so they know it works or who to shout at if there’s a problem."

PernixData’s Aaron said FVP is sold on Dell servers and channel partners bundle the software with storage from EMC, Nimble Storage and other vendors. It also does interoperability testing and joint marketing with flash vendors Micron Technology Inc., HGST Inc., Kingston Technology Corp., Toshiba and Intel.

Next Steps

PernixData adds support for VMware vSphere5.5

Expanded capabilities for PernixData's Flash Virtualization Platform

Dig Deeper on Storage vendors

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Does the ability to pool RAM between servers as a cache appeal to you?
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This idea would have been helpful for me in my previous environment, when I was managing multiple virtual machines being used in parallel, all housed on a large datacenter server. Now that I have shifted to mostly cloud service devices, spinning up machines as I need them, and then decommissioning them when I don't, I'm not sure that this standalone application would be as beneficial. For those who are managing a group of machines and having those machines actively in service, yes, I could see this being a valuable addition.
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