Nevex Speeds Apps With Caching System - InformationWeek
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10/12/2011
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Nevex Speeds Apps With Caching System

CacheWorks is application aware and promises better performance by focusing on optimizing file and application access, rather than on frequently accessed blocks of data.

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Nevex Virtual Technologies this week announced Cacheworks 1.0, becoming the newest entry in an already burgeoning group of companies offering caching software or appliances. The company is focusing on file and application access, rather than on frequently accessed blocks in a block storage device, and claim that as a result they can achieve a higher level of application performance.

While CPU performance has improved dramatically during the last decade, performance of conventional hard disk storage has not, at least in terms of speed. This speed gap is further exaggerated by virtualized workloads. A given application may have an optimized storage access approach, but when multiple applications are placed on a given server, that optimization is lost as multiple workloads fight for access to a single shared storage system.

The use of high-speed server RAM memory when coupled with local flash memory, either in the form of a PCIe solid state drive (SSD) or hard drive form factor SSD, can provide a place to put information so it can be accessed rapidly by the various workloads running on the server. The tricky part is what data should be placed there. A number of companies have introduced a variety of caching systems, but all have used a table of frequently accessed blocks (sometimes called a heat index) to determine which data should be stored in the high-speed memory as opposed to being left on the shared storage.

Nevex has taken an applications-aware approach that understands file system access patterns and can be further tuned by setting policies to avoid caching data sets that do not benefit from the higher speed (and more costly) memory.

Here's how it works. Nevex is tightly coupled with Windows and the server's DRAM as a filter driver, and can be used to set policies for which files are stored where. Data that is frequently accessed is placed on the fastest and most expensive storage, the Level 1 cache, which is DRAM. The Level 2 cache is typically an SSD. The first access causes the data to be written through to primary storage and written to Level 2. The second access will cause the data to be written to Level 1 cache. Subsequent accesses only go to Level 1 cache until the data is changed. Being knowledgeable of the file type is very useful in this process. This also allows administrators to selectively accelerate data based on application, file type and location.

Nevex CacheWorks is deployable on 64-bit Microsoft Windows Server 2003, 2008, 2008 R2 running on a physical machine or virtually on Windows Hyper-V or VMware, and is compatible with any Windows-supported SSD. Pricing is based on physical servers at $2,450 each, but a special offer is available now for $1,495 for customers buying directly from Nevex for a limited time. General availability is targeted for mid-November.

Deni Connor is founding analyst for Storage Strategies NOW, an industry analyst firm that focuses on storage, virtualization, and servers.

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