Data Center Tech Blog

Three years ago at VMworld 2012, we introduced FlashSoft software for VMware vSphere. Like our storage acceleration software for Windows and Linux, it lets administrators improve storage performance by caching the VMs’ most frequently accessed data on a solid-state device in the host server.

Solid-state acceleration that works with your storage

As a our customers have said, solid-state caching in the host server can make a huge improvement to your VMware environment. Applications run faster (even big databases that demand low latency storage IO); you can provision more VMs per server; and your organization’s existing storage infrastructure can remain in useful operation much longer as IO is offloaded to server-level solid-state caches.

Our current solution for host-level solid-state acceleration, FlashSoft 3.7, is a VMware Partner Verified and Supported Product (PVSP). Integrated through public APIs (the Pluggable Storage Architecture) the software provides storage acceleration with a write-through cache for VMFS datastores that’s reliable, efficient and cost-effective.

Big news at VMworld 2015

This week at VMworld, we introduced FlashSoft 4.0, the new version of our software, designed specifically for use with vSphere 6.0. It’s loaded with new capabilities. On vSphere 5, FlashSoft 3.7 is deployed as a write-through cache. On vSphere 6, the software gives you the option of write-back as well as write-through caching, to provide flash performance for write-intensive workloads like transactional databases and business intelligence applications.

In addition, FlashSoft 4.0 supports not only VMFS, but also NFS, Virtual Volumes and Virtual SAN datastores. Virtual disk-level acceleration means that you can choose which virtual HDDs to accelerate, and which ones to leave out of the cache. This can be useful when you don’t want a database log written to the cache. Admins will also like the new GUI running in the vCenter Web client, which prominently displays the read and write IO being served from the cache, and the net storage offload.

FlashSoft 4.0

Show this to your boss to explain why you won’t need that storage upgrade…

Everything’s changed… for the better

But taken altogether, the best feature in the new FlashSoft software is peace of mind for the VMware administrator. You see, when we’re talking about storage caching in vSphere 6, pretty much everything’s changed for the better, and in a way that you, as a VMware administrator, can really appreciate.

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In vSphere 6, VMware has introduced a new framework for the integration of third party data services: the vSphere APIs for IO Filtering (VAIO). The VAIO framework provides “IO filters” that allow third party data services to intercept IO between VMs and their virtual disks. As VMware’s design partner for the caching IO filter, SanDisk® has implemented the new version of FlashSoft as a data service for acceleration of I/O through the use of an SSD-based cache in the host. An important benefit of this new architecture is that FlashSoft can be validated and certified by VMware. In short, with the new VAIO integration in vSphere 6, third party technologies become first-class citizens.

You’ll see the difference right from the start

You’ll notice the difference that VAIO makes just installing FlashSoft. Installation and configuration of the host components is governed by an SPBM policy, and the host filters are managed by vCenter. As the administrator, you just click the “install” button in the vCenter-based GUI, and the filters are enabled on all the hosts in the cluster. As new hosts are added to the cluster, vSphere automatically deploys the filter to them as well, according to the FlashSoft caching storage policy in the SPBM directory. Cache configuration can be similarly propagated across the cluster.

With the integration of FlashSoft through the VAIO platform, vSphere 6 represents a major milestone for software-defined storage. You can run vSphere with standard SAN or NAS arrays just like before, but now software that’s integrated with vSphere lets you use flash in your server as though you had flash storage. That’s software-defined storage acceleration, and it’s all managed by vCenter and VMware SPBM.

That’s why, despite the many new features and capabilities that are coming with FlashSoft 4.0, the response we hear most from administrators is “now I can do host-level solid-state caching right.” The best feature in FlashSoft 4.0 is peace of mind.

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Want to learn more?

Join me on Sep 15, 2015 at 10:00 am PDT for a webinar: Using VMware Virtual Data Services for IO Acceleration in vSphere 6. In this joint webinar, Juan Novella from VMware and I will discuss how vSphere 6 now supports third party data services, and what that means for the VMware administrator. You’ll learn how VMware’s vision for software-defined storage supports the use of caching software, like FlashSoft, and learn how VMware vSphere 6 can integrate this software for reliable performance and ease of administration. Register here.


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