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NetApp Intros Software To Manage Multivendor PCIe Flash-Based Storage

Unlike EMC, whose VFCache software ties to the particular PCIe flash storage, NetApp's new Flash Accel brings PCIe flash storage from multiple vendors into its tiered storage scheme.

NetApp on Tuesday extended its storage-tiering reach into the server with the introduction of new software that allows it to work with multiple vendors' PCIe flash storage products.

NetApp's new Flash Accel software interfaces with PCIe-based flash storage to turn that storage into a high-performance tier and increase application performance by up to 90 percent, said Tim Russell, vice president of the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based storage vendor's Data Lifecycle Ecosystem group.

Flash Accel, which is embedded in NetApp's Data Ontap storage operating system, is similar to rival EMC's VFCache, which is software that allows EMC storage to take advantage of flash storage inside a server in order to increase the performance of applications with "hot" data, or data that is frequently accessed.

[Related: Analysis: NetApp, Fusion-io Collaborate For Better FlexPod Converged Infrastructure ]

However, Russell said, while VFCache works with EMC hardware, NetApp's Flash Accel works with hardware from such partners as Salt Lake City-based Fusion-io; Milpitas, Calif.-based LSI; Santa Ana, Calif.-based STEC; Boise, Idaho-based Micron; and Milpitas, Calif.-based Virident Systems.

Flash Accel also works with software from Fusion-io, LSI, and Milpitas, Calif.-based SanDisk, he said.

NetApp is also reselling PCIe flash-based storage cards and related software from Fusion-io for use in physical and virtual server environments, Russell said. NetApp last month said it was working with Fusion-io on PCIe storage collaboration, but it did not unveil the reseller relationship until Tuesday.

"So partners can deploy a variety of hardware and software in customers' servers and storage arrays to get end-to-end flash storage tiering without the need for further integration," he said.

With the introduction of Flash Accel and the move to resell Fusion-io's PCIe-based flash storage hardware, NetApp now has a three-pronged Flash storage story to tell, Russell said.

The company currently sells SSDs and flash-based storage technology with its storage appliances. Russell said NetApp has already deployed 17 petabytes in front of 1.6 exabytes of disk storage. "About 60 percent of customers buying new arrays from NetApp have flash attached," he said. "In our 6000 series of filers, it's now a standard part of our configuration."

NetApp in June also introduced Flash Pool, a new feature of its Data Ontap storage operating system that ties Flash-based SSD storage to spinning disk in such a way that data moves automatically and in real time between them depending on how quickly it is needed.

NEXT: NetApp's Flash Accel Not The Same As EMC VFCache


While a quick read of the NetApp Flash Accel news might make it seem like NetApp is reacting to EMC's flash storage moves, the reality is that NetApp's move is a whole new step in the evolution of flash storage, said Keith Norbie, vice president of Nexus, the Minnetonka, Minn. office of Stratos Management Services, an Atlanta-based solution provider and NetApp partner.

"NetApp has been playing with PCIe flash technology for a while," Norbie said. "The release of Flash Accel is great timing. We have a ton of NetApp customers looking for an integrated Flash solution."

Norbie said NetApp's approach to the flash storage market, one that relies on relationships with a variety of hardware and software vendors, is the same approach it uses in its FlexPod converged infrastructure offering with partner Cisco.

"This will be an extension of the success of NetApp's ideology with FlexPod," he said. "NetApp adopts best-of-breed technology. In this case, it's flash storage acceleration, which leverages technology customers already have on their sites."

PUBLISHED AUG. 21, 2012

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