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IO Turbine Exits Stealth Mode With Virtual Server Flash/SSD Storage

IO Turbine came out of stealth mode with software that enables virtual machines to use SSD or Flash storage as cache for increasing application performance even as those virtual machines migrate to new physical hosts.

IO Turbine's new Accelio software overcomes bottlenecks caused by multiple virtual machines sitting on clustered physical servers which are trying to access NAS or Fibre Channel or iSCSI SAN storage, said Rich Boberg, CEO and co-founder of the San Jose, Calif.-based vendor.

"We're addressing the I/O bottleneck by enabling Flash memory in virtual systems," Boberg said.

The proliferation of multi-core processors has made it easy to increase the number of virtual machines per physical host, but in the process has increased per-host I/O demands, Boberg said. "This has led to a very high I/O demand on storage networks," he said.

At the same time, the gap between CPU performance and disk drive performance is widening, Boberg said.

Disk drives and Flash storage provide capacity management and I/Os per second, or IOPS, Boberg said. Spinning disks provide lower per-GB cost than SSDs or Flash storage. But in terms of IOPS, PCI-based Flash storage costs 16 cents per IOPS compared to $2.36 per IOPS, based on prices over the past nine months to 12 months, Boberg said.

However, SSDs or Flash storage cannot be thrown into a server and be expected to automatically increase virtual machine performance, as the tie between them is broken when a virtual machine migrates to another physical host, Boberg said.

"When Flash is added to a physical host, it looks like another hard drive," he said. "By definition, a virtual machine with local storage can't be moved. Accelio uses Flash storage as a read cache, not as a local drive. Since it's a cache, it can be made smaller or bigger. Or if a virtual machine moves to a new host, Accelio can build the new cache there."

That cache could be done more easily and directly using a server's DRAM, but DRAM is much more expensive than SSD or Flash storage on a per-GB basis, Boberg said. "Applications are not naturally able to access Flash storage as a cache," he said. "Accelio makes this happen by intercepting I/Os at the hypervisor level and then managing the Flash on behalf of the virtual machines. The apps don't know they're using Flash."

The result, Boberg said, is that customers will see applications run much faster because of the lower latency of Flash storage, letting them increase the number of virtual machines per host system.

Accelio also allows works with VMware's vMotion technology to provide high availability and automatic load balancing, he said.

Accelio is initially being released for VMware environments, but will be available for other environments in the future, Boberg said.

IO Turbine is planning to pursue an all-channel strategy, said Jay Phillips, vice president of sales for the company.

The Accelio software gives solution providers the opportunity to increase virtual machine density without the need for additional hardware or drive spindles, Phillips said. "It moves partners into the strategic high-ground of the physical server where a customer's data originates," he said.

IO Turbine is looking to recruit solution providers who focus on storage, server, and VMware deployment into the midrange and enterprise markets. "The Flash storage market is a significant services opportunity," Phillips said. "It's a new market for a lot of these resellers."

Availability of Accelio is slated for late in the third quarter, Boberg said. It is currently in beta testing with a few customers and their solution providers.

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