Wednesday, 22 August 2012 06:01

NetApp cooks up software-based flash caching for storage performance


New Flash Accel software from NetApp uses server-based flash storage to improve performance by up to 90%.

The software allows the use of server-based flash storage (and other memory technologies) as the performance tier of storage infrastructure based on NetApp Virtual Storage Tiering.

Principal technologist John Martin told iTWire that his company has been working on the technology for over four years, and Flash Accel gives "better than tier-1 performance".

Flash Accel works with any vendor's PCI-e flash memory or SSD devices, and would also work with other persistent technologies such as phase-change memory.

The software runs within VMware, intercepting calls from the virtualisation software to the filesystem and caching the data in as much as 10TB of flash storage.

"It's an automatic storage tiering technology," said Mr Martin, adding that it offloads over 90% of read activity from the storage arrays.

This means fast and expensive drives can largely be replaced with cheaper, higher-capacity units, and deduplication is possible without negatively affecting application performance.

Flash Accel is aware of what's happening on the storage arrays (eg, the restoration of a snapshot) and therefore is able to maintain cache coherency between the array and the server.

A persistent copy of all data is stored on the NetApp Data OnTap platform for high availability and data protection.

This also means Flash Accel can be used in conjunction with VMotion to pre-warm caches for failover.


NetApp is working with other vendors to provide similar functionality on other virtualisation platforms such as Hyper-V.

"There's nothing inherent... that ties it to VMware," said Mr Martin, it's simply that VMware was the biggest target for the company to address.

"Anyone with midrange storage or above" that "genuinely cares about performance" should consider Flash Accel, he suggested, but noted that initial interest within Australia has largely come from the financial sector.

David Giambruno, senior vice president and CIO at cosmetics company Revlon, said "We've been testing Flash Accel from NetApp and have already seen considerable efficiency and performance gains from our applications that for our business mean that our scientists and marketers have greater access to the data that drives the creation and sales of our glamorous products."

NetApp is expanding its partner program to pre-qualify vendors' server caching products.

The first to submit products for qualification include Fusion-io, LSI, Micron, SanDisk Enterprise Storage Solutions, STEC, and Virident.

NetApp will also be reselling Fusio-io's ioMemory products as well as its ioTurbine and Direct Cache caching software, the latter being used for non-virtualised systems.

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Stephen Withers

Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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