Startup Astute Networks Brings Network Flash To VMware Environments

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Astute Networks, a startup developer of technology for using optimizing Flash memory for accelerating VMware virtualized environments, on Monday came out of stealth mode with the introduction of its first appliance.

The addition of a single Astute ViSX G3 appliance to a network instantly adds about 80,000 sustained IOPS (I/Os per second) performance, or about the same performance of adding hundreds of enterprise hard drives, said Jay Kramer, vice president of market for the San Diego-based company. Multiple appliances can be added to the network, each adding the same extra performance, Kramer said.

"The ViSX G3 is the first solution to solve the critical problem of virtual stall called by performance bottlenecks in virtualized environments," he said. "We let customers dial in the performance they need and where they need it by assigning IOPS to each virtual machine, as well as set the SLA for their virtualized environment."

The ViSX G3 is targeted at accelerating applications with high random read and write I/O such as databases, ERP, e-mail, and SharePoint across a customer's entire server environment using Flash memory, Kramer said.

"We're unlocking the performance of VMware environments," he said.

In classic server and storage infrastructures, each physical server is assigned a storage volume on a one-to-one basis, said Omar Barraza, Astute's director of product marketing and product management.

However, as customers transform their physical servers to host multiple virtual machines, the result is multiple servers sharing the same storage which is then dealing with increased demand for random read and write operations, Barraza said.

The storage industry is responding by adding Flash-based storage device in several different forms, such as internal PCI Flash modules for servers, external Flash devices to serve as direct-attach storage, and SAN-based Flash, Barraza said.

"The problem with these solutions is that such important VMware functions as Vmotion and high availability are difficult to use ... We saw the need for a solution to address the virtualized environment, and not create a bottleneck," he said.

The ViSX G3 is a single enclosure which includes 12 Flash memory modules and Astute's proprietary 10-core DataPump Engine processor which provides accelerated network performance, virtualized iSCSI capability, Flash performance, and RAID protection. It connects to a Gbit Ethernet or 10-Gbit Ethernet network, and is accessed as an iSCSI storage device.

"We don't just add cache to increase performance," Barraza said. "We actually host the virtual machines. Customers can Vmotion their VMs to the ViSX G3, which removes them from the host server which will as a result enjoy a boost in performance."

The ViSX G3 is not intended to replace a SAN or NAS appliance, Barraza said. Instead, it plugs into a network to complement the existing infrastructure and accelerate virtualization.

The ViSX G3 comes in three versions, all featuring the same performance but offering different amounts of storage capacity which impacts how many virtual machines they can run. The 1.2-TB version lists for $29,000, the 2.4-TB version for $59,000, and the 4.8-TB version for $94,000.

With that starting price, the ViSX G3 offers virtualized environment performance acceleration at a cost of under $500 per physical server in a 64-server environment, Kramer said. He compared it to EMC's Clariion CX-4 480, which could do the same at about $6,000 per host, or Fusion-IO at $8,000 per host, according to Astute's estimates.

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