Making High Performance Easy With Flash Virtualization ... - SanDisk

Making High Performance Easy With Flash Virtualization ... - SanDisk




Eric Slack, Senior Analyst

Solid State Storage and more specifically Flash based

solid state storage is becoming widely accepted as the

next step in increasing data center storage I/O

performance. The challenge has been how to tap into the

performance capabilities of this tier of storage. FlashSoft’s

new Active Data Management solution is a server based

cache that essentially virtualizes the flash storage tier,

automatically accelerating storage I/O across a wide range

of applications.

How does FlashSoft do this? First it runs on the server,

converting SSD to a read-write cache, providing

performance closest to where it is needed; the CPU. Since

it is software it works with any SSD (SATA, SAS, PCIe,

SATADIMM). It also works with SSD no mater how it is

connected, direct attached, iSCSI or Fibre attached. Today

FlashSoft runs as a filter level driver under Microsoft

Windows 2008 and in the future it will support other

platforms. It is available now for free download and trial.

Today, most SSD or solid state storage devices require the

manual placement of data on them. This means you have

to know exactly what data set should go on that tier of

storage and potentially more challenging when that data

should be placed on that tier. In reality what happens is

one problem applications data is placed on SSD and then

never moved again. Which is great for that one application

but is a poor use of a premium resource like SSD.

In reality what you want is active management of SSD.

Where it is constantly being refreshed with the most

eligible data throughout the business day so that a broad

range of applications can benefit from the same or even

smaller SSD investment than described above.

Architecturally you would install a PCIe, SATA, SAS or

SATADIMM SSD in each Windows servers that are having

performance issues. Next the software would be installed

and it would start caching data. Basically at that point your

work is done, the software does the rest. Reads would be

analyzed for cache “worthiness” and writes, if enabled,

would automatically be cached. We are fans of turning

write caching on. It allows you to see immediate benefits

from SSD and since many reads are “read after write” in

nature, it also pre-populates the read cache.

While the cache software market may get a little crowded

in the coming months, FlashSoft has some capabilities

that will keep them ahead of the game. First it is available

right now for trial.


Second FlashSoft understands metadata which is

important to keep system memory and CPU needs to a

minimum. Also they have developed profiles for specific

SSD hardware so that their software can be tuned to match

the capabilities of the hardware. They can also tune for

specific software, in the future look for application and

operating system level fine tuning to maximize cache


While not popular to admit that SSD wear out happens,

most of these drives now have a 3 to 5 year warranty so

replacement is free, the challenge is managing the “swapout”.

FlashSoft’s reporting lets you predict if and when that

might happen and perform the replacement during a

maintenance window instead of in the middle of the

business day.

Along with this is the ability to custom, configure and tune

cache configuration. The cache can be set to read-ahead &

read-around hotspot recognition write-back, write-through

and read-only. Also cache flushing and queuing can be

custom set as well. FlashSoft will also make its own

adjustments on the fly by using write stream recognitions

and by aligning data writes with SSD block structure.

Finally it has robust reporting capabilities that include

analysis of cache performance, trouble reporting and

predictive analysis. This will allow the user to know when

and if the SSD cache should be expanded for better

performance or even when the SSD is close to wearing out

because of overuse.

StorageSwiss Take

This is not yet a crowded market, most of the

announcements made here are just that and not actual

shipping products. Even when other vendors begin

shipping products customers will learn very quickly that all

cache (and SSDs) are not created equal. This is not a

checkmark item. FlashSoft seems to be much further along

and as stated earlier has a product for evaluation today and

a feature set that should differentiate itself from the rest of

the SSD cache crowd.

About Storage Switzerland

Storage Switzerland is an analyst firm focused on the virtualization and storage marketplaces. For more information

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Copyright © 2011 Storage Switzerland, Inc. - All rights reserved


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