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Fusion-io unveils improved flash caching software

Posted: 27 Dec 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Fusion-io? flash caching software? storage array network? algorithm?

Fusion-io has announced the latest version of its ioTurbine caching software that the company said better integrates server-side flash with storage array networks (SANs). Additional features include one-click application caching, updated caching algorithms, and common management across physical and virtual servers.

In an interview with EE Times, Lee Caswell, VP of Fusion-io's virtualization products group, said the software update allows enterprises to better use flash to take pressure off their SANs using caching algorithms to direct operations from the SAN to the server. Data is read from shared storage and simultaneously written to flash on the server so that any subsequent reads are delivered from flash, he explained, "All of the activity happens without the SAN even knowing."

Caswell said Fusion-io has a number of large-scale customers with plenty of shared storage capacity to make sure they were addressing data growth in their organization. "Now they are looking for more processing power to be able to analyze that data," he said. Caching software allows them to continue to use the SAN to meet capacity requirements while scaling up processing on the server side without doing a disruptive upgrade.

The ioTurbine portfolio comprises several elements, including ioTurbine Direct, a SAN co-processor that offers server-side storage acceleration for physical servers; ioTurbine Virtual, which offloads read workloads to high performance flash in servers; and ioCache, a flash-based cache for accelerating database-based workloads.

Mark Peters, senior analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group, said software is necessary in most cases to maximize the "bang for the buck" from flash, and Fusion-io is not alone in having both server flash and caching software. It has plenty of large and small competitors too, but the company is differentiating itself by offering a range of options for customers. Its recent purchase of NexGen supports that strategy, he said.

Fusion-io acquired NexGen in the spring of 2013. NexGen has been delivering a flash-optimized hybrid storage system that uses Fusion-io's PCIe flash cards as its performance tier. ioTurbine was also an acquisition for Fusion-io in August 2011.

Over the past couple of years, storage vendors have introduced or acquired software to optimize the use of flash in their products. NetApp's Flash Accel server cache software, for example, extends the caching and storage management capabilities of its Data ONTAP operating system to servers, accelerating access to data on the back-end storage system.

This summer, EMC purchased ScaleIO, which gives it a software-only approach to managing server storage and the technology to combine server-side PCIe and SSD flash, as well as hard disk drives, into a shared pool, while Western Digital bought caching software provider VeloBit Inc. Instead of prioritizing data on how recently it was accessed, the HyperCache software prioritizes data for server-side read and write caching based on data popularity.

The latest version of ioTurbine improves integration between server side flash where Fusion-io has its roots, said Peters, and more traditional storage array environments. "In the big scheme of things this shows that Fusion-io is speedily embracing and working to deliver more of a hybrid infrastructure approach." At the same time, he added, the company is maintaining its focus on the value of having the highest performance I/O from server flash, while growing its ability to manage across and between storage silos, whether it's sharing server-based flash or providing workload flexibility.

"The effective pooling and sharing of resources is one of the battlefronts of storage for the next few years," Peters said.

- Gary Hilson
??EE Times

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