PernixData's Flash Virtualization Platform

PAVMUG’s annual users conference was held today at the Valley Forge Radisson.   This event is a good way to: socialize with peers,  learn about VMware related products, and to talk to vendors.

One of the more interesting vendors at today’s conference was PernixData.   PernixData is a storage performance acceleration company co-founded by Satyam Vaghani.  While working for VMware, Satyam created the VMFS file system.   PernixData came out of stealth mode earlier this year and their product is currently in beta,  with the 1.0 product being shipped soon?

What is Flash Virtualization Platform?

Flash Virtualization Platform (FVP) is PernixData’s  first product.   FVP  takes vSphere local PCIe Flash and SSDs and pools them together for the purpose of localizing disk reads and writes through high speed caching.   The more data that a VM can read/write to/from this flash pool, the faster the VM’s disk performance and the lower the latency and utilization on the existing SAN spindles.   

What makes FVP unique:

FVP is not a SAN replacement.   VM data still resides on your SAN,  FVP increases VM disk performance while reducing SAN utilization.

How does it work?

PernixData developed a driver that uses vSphere’s storage APIs.   One of the keys of the product is simplicity.   Here is the “complexity” involved in getting FVP running:

That’s it.  No VM drivers,  no special configuration.    As Satyam was going through the install process all I could think of was the Geico commercial “So easy a caveman can do it”.

VMs can be configured to use write-through mode which acts as a read cache or write-back mode which will cache both reads and writes.   When choosing write-back mode you have the option a creating redundant copies of the write on other FVP enabled hosts.   These redundant copies will prevent data loss that could occur if vSphere host fails and the VM writes to the flash pool cache are not committed to the SAN prior to the vSphere hosts crashing.

Once the product is in place and VMs are using the flash pools,  you can view the performance data that shows your cache IOPs, throughput, hit rate,  and most importantly how much throughput the product prevented going to the SAN.

Is FVP the answer to a vSphere environments storage IO and latency problems?    Based on the simplicity, performance, and polish of the product I hope so.

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