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8/29/2011
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FlashSoft's Answer For Slow Virtualized Applications

FlashSoft SE-V, debuting at VMworld 2011, caches data on server to avoid I/O slowdowns.

FlashSoft, a company that uses flash memory to improve application performance in Windows servers, now offers flash to do the same for virtualized apps running in VMware's vSphere environment. The company is introducing FlashSoft SE-V at the VMworld 2011 conference this week in Las Vegas. (See our related coverage of VMworld 2011 for a look at VMware's latest plans.)

Caching data on the server eliminates the I/O bottlenecks that occur when an application has to retrieve data from hard drive. The FlashSoft solution uses solid state drive (SSD) memory to place the data in the server in both read and write mode. FlashSoft SE-V is intended for use in virtualized servers running Windows 2008 R2 to deliver Microsoft applications such as Exchange, SharePoint and SQL, said Ted Sanford, FlashSoft's founder and CEO.

"We've done significant testing with those applications and can show anywhere from that three to ten times better application performance by leveraging Flash as a cache in the server," Sanford said.

FlashSoft SE-V optimizes the use of Flash by selecting what is the most active, or "hot," data in the database for storing in the server, such as on an SSD PCIe card, he explained. Because SSD storage is more expensive than traditional HDD storage, a 300 gigabyte capacity Flash PCIe card could cost $10,000. If a company's entire data store was 2 terabytes, storing all of that in Flash would cost about $70,000.

"What we do is we allow you to use a smaller amount of flash, say 10% to 20% ... then our software automatically will figure out what the hot data is in that whole 2-terabyte dataset, and put it on that one Flash card," Sanford said.

FlashSoft also works with SATA and SAS-based Flash storage.

While FlashSoft is, of course, not the only provider of solid state drive storage, it does offer some unique innovations, said Mark Peters, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group.

"The innovations that it brings to the table are the ability to do this heterogeneously across pretty much any solid state device, rather than being tied to a particular vendor. Also, the ability to virtualize the use of the solid state resource across multiple applications. And to do all this without changing other things, like applications or current storage, in a user's environment," Peters said.

The app performance with FlashSoft SE-V is "an order of magnitude faster" than retrieving data from a storage array, said CEO Sanford. In a typical storage array it takes 100 to 150 microseconds for data to arrive at the server, and up to 1000 microseconds, or 1 millisecond, if, as is often the case, the network is poorly configured. But if the server has Flash memory on a PCIe card, the latency time to get data off the card and to the app is as short as 12 to 20 microseconds.

FlashSoft SE-V is licensed for use in multiple Windows Server virtual machines (VMs) running on a single VMware server. The license cost is based on the number of VMs on the server and the type of SSD device used to host the cache on the server.

InformationWeek Analytics has published a report on backing up VM disk files and building a resilient infrastructure that can tolerate hardware and software failures. After all, what's the point of constructing a virtualized infrastructure without a plan to keep systems up and running in case of a glitch--or outright disaster? Download the report now. (Free registration required.)

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