By Jeff Aaron, VP of Marketing, PernixData

Virtualization has changed the way modern data centers operate. But storage systems haven’t been able to keep up, creating I/O bottlenecks that hamper application performance.

In today’s enterprise, IT administrators need a way to efficiently scale storage performance using virtualization, much in the same way they scale server compute and memory. This has given rise to a new technology, called a Flash Hypervisor, which is paving the way to true software defined data centers. By aggregating available flash into clusters that accelerate the performance of reads and writes, Flash Hypervisors are changing the way that IT administrators own and operate data centers.

Overcoming Storage Performance Bottlenecks

I/O bottlenecks in primary storage can add significant latency to virtual applications, resulting in slow or unusable applications. This frustrates end users and creates numerous problems for IT, including unpredictable expenses and costs.

To date, the only option when faced with the above challenge is to throw storage hardware at the problem. Storage administrators can improve the capabilities of their Storage Area Network (SAN) by upgrading interconnect speeds or deploying faster disks and processors. Unfortunately, these are all very expensive and disruptive solutions, which don’t even guarantee an improvement in application performance.

Many companies are keen for a change. They want a solution whereby storage performance is decoupled from storage capacity, eliminating the need for unnecessary storage hardware upgrades. This has created an enormous market demand for server side flash, which in turn has created a need for Flash Hypervisor software.

Making the Case for Flash Virtualization

A Flash Hypervisor virtualizes all server side flash into a clustered acceleration tier that enables IT administrators to quickly, easily and cost-effectively scale-out storage performance completely independent of storage capacity. Just like traditional hypervisors abstract physical CPU and RAM into a logical pool of resources, a Flash Hypervisor does the same for all server flash devices across a data center. More specifically, the Flash Hypervisor provides a resource management scheme that multiplexes multiple VMs to a set of flash devices according to user-specified policies. The result is dramatically faster and truly scale-out read and write performance for all VMs, without the need to change existing storage infrastructure.

Flash Hypervisors fundamentally change data center design. Gone are the days when storage is designed with performance and capacity in one tier. For the first time ever, storage performance can cost effectively scale-out with demand.

For example, a traditional mid-range SAN costs about $100,000 and delivers around 50,000 IOPS. To double this performance, one must buy a new SAN, which also doubles the total price to $200,000. In contrast, a Flash Hypervisor can deliver around 100,000 IOPS on a single Flash device, which is twice the performance at less than 1/10 the cost of the SAN (under $10,000). To double the amount of IOPS one must simply add another inexpensive flash device to the Flash Hypervisor cluster. The result is substantially higher storage performance at a fraction of the cost of a SAN alone.

Flash Hypervisor Design Considerations

What makes a Flash Hypervisor different from traditional server side Flash caching solutions? Below are key criteria that make this technology unique:
• Seamlessly works with all VMs, hosts and storage.
• Supports heterogeneous flash devices (PCIE and SSD)
• Cluster technology transparently supports all VM operations, such as vMotion, DRS and HA. This ensures VMs can move around freely between hosts without impacting application performance.
• Supports read and write acceleration (with replication between Flash devices for fault tolerance). This ensures that all read- and write-intensive applications will benefit from this technology.

Storage has long been a war-of-boxes with marginal innovation. Flash Hypervisor technology signifies a giant leap from the storage status quo in that it brings a scale-out microsecond level storage acceleration tier to every workload, in every virtualized data center. Its enterprise-class features and unparalleled benefits make it a strategic infrastructure investment that will fundamentally change data center storage design forever.