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NexGen Storage supports VMware VVOLs with ioControl update

NexGen Storage integrates vStorage APIs for Storage Awareness (VASA) to help VMware customers prepare for VVOL adoption.

NexGen Storage today upgraded its ioControl storage management software to support VMware vSphere 6 and Virtual Volumes (VVOLs) on its N5 line of hybrid storage arrays.

Version 3.5 requires customers to upgrade to vSphere 6, and installs as a vSphere 6 plugin. It allows customers to manage and provision NexGen storage directly within VMware vCenter. Enhancements include the ability to assign quality of service (QoS) to individual virtual machines (VMs) and perform live migration between VMware storage containers as an alternative to Storage vMotion.

VMware previewed VVOLs in 2011 as a way for storage vendors to build VM-enabled storage policies in their arrays and simplify provisioning and mounting of virtual volumes. However, VVOLs were not completed until the release of vSphere 6 earlier this year.

NexGen 3.5 firmware is generally available as a non-disruptive upgrade to customers using NexGen's N5 line of 4U PCIe-based hybrid arrays, NexGen vice president of product marketing Chris McCall said. The arrays combine 4 TB hard disk drives, PCIe flash as a write buffer and ioControl intelligent storage software.

NexGen places PCIe flash directly on the compute bus and uses ioControl to intelligently place applications in flash and disk, based on an end user's policy. NexGen introduced the N5 hardware in January following its spinout from SanDisk. The systems scale from 32 TB to 256 TB of hard disk storage and between 2 TB and 15 TB of PCIe flash.

NexGen's new software is also designed to support the nonvolatile memory express (NVMe) specification when it becomes widely available.

Version upgrade assigns storage QoS on per-VM basis

NexGen customers categorize virtual machine (VM) workload performance in ioControl using five predefined service levels for mission-critical, business-critical and non-critical data. The service levels are used to enforce performance policies for discrete VMs or LUNs to avoid resource contention.

"What we're doing (by integrating) storage quality of service and VVOLs is to deliver software-defined performance on a per-VM basis. Changing the performance of a VM involves a simple change in policy. You can change a VM workload from noncritical to mission-critical in seconds to minutes, with no impact on other workloads. You just click a dropdown box for the VM and change the performance policy to run it a different speed," McCall said.

NexGen places PCIe flash directly on the compute bus and uses ioControl to intelligently place applications in flash and disk, based on an end user's policy.

NexGen was a VMware VVOL development partner. McCall said most companies are still "learning more than deploying VVOLs," but added that VVOL adoption is expected to be gradual and steady.

"I'd estimate that 80% of the installed VMware base is thinking about it," he said. "We realize it may not drive a lot of near-term sales, but there is a huge need for the user base to understand the implications of vSphere 6."

'Quantity of service' enabled by NexGen's PCIe flash implementation

Mark Peters, a storage analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, said NexGen appears to be ahead of the game with VVOLs support in ioControl 3.5.

"No matter how it's done, data migration is a complex thing that people want to avoid if they can," Peters said. "NexGen has taken steps to bypass it by building intelligence into its OS. Instead of just receiving commands and applying fixes, they apply intelligence to manage it better."

NexGen uses PCIe flash in a way that enables users to run a higher number of VM workloads when compared to traditional solid-state storage, Peters said.

"They talk about quantity of service as well as quality of service. Their PCIe implementation gives a relatively high level of performance that in turn drives more work through the box," Peters said.

Use cases for NexGen storage include analytics, architecture and engineering, education, energy and financial services.

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