Data Center Tech Blog

At SanDisk, we’ve worked with the amazing VAIO team at VMware for two years. We’re really excited about the first milestone for our product - the release of FlashSoft® 4.0 for VMware vSphere® 6

This week the FlashSoft team at SanDisk® released FlashSoft® 4.0 for VMware vSphere® 6. This new version of FlashSoft, designed specifically for VMware vSphere 6 (update 2) is now generally available for evaluation and purchase from SanDisk and through our various reseller partners. The new release features a completely new architecture to take advantage of the new vSphere APIs for IO Filtering (VAIO). For two years SanDisk has partnered with VMware as the design partner for the caching APIs in this new integration framework, and we’re excited that we can now deliver our software to our customers, so they can see the benefits of this major milestone in our product’s development.

There’s been a fair amount of talk about VAIO over the past year or so, but without third-party software data services to use with the framework, administrators haven’t been able to get hands-on with to see if VAIO is really the game-changer that people have said it would be. After all, we’ve seen previous technologies for host-based solid-state caching. What makes this one any different? Well, now you can see for yourself.

Three Big Differences

1. More Than Caching
The first thing to note is that VAIO is about more than caching. It’s a framework for third-party data services to provide storage functions in vSphere, through a hierarchical set of “IO filters.” At SanDisk, our primary interest is the caching filter, but it’s good to know that through this framework our software is automatically deployed to play nicely (for example) with a replication technology integrated through the appropriate replication filter in the same environment.

2. Better Integration of Third-Party Data Services
The second thing about VAIO is that it represents a way for third-party storage software technologies to be “first class citizens” in the vSphere ecosystem. One of the criticisms of early solutions for software-defined storage (SDS) is that many approaches to SDS lock customers into a single vendor’s solution, and lock other technologies out. The VAIO framework is a major step toward an SDS architecture that integrates third-party data services while ensuring the reliability, stability and availability of the platform.

3. VMware Ready!
The third, and possibly most important point about VAIO is that it brings greater confidence to adopters of certified solutions. Our FlashSoft software for VMware vSphere 5.1 and 5.5 is certified by VMware as a Partner Verified and Supported Product (PVSP), but FlashSoft 4 for vSphere 6 is certified VMware Ready™. This not only shows that the software has passed a rigorous validation process defined by VMware, but FlashSoft won’t place any limitations on customers’ VMware support.

But What Does It Mean For Me?

Those points are all important, but you may be asking, what does VAIO and the new version of FlashSoft mean for the VMware administrator? A few highlights include:

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Ease of installation, configuration and management: FlashSoft is now deployed by vSphere cluster-wide, and deployment is validated by vSphere, just as any native VMware technology would be. When you install FlashSoft 4.0 for vSphere 6, the cluster-wide deployment and installation is managed by vSphere.

Support for all VMware-compatible datastores: The VAIO framework is designed to support all datastore types. In our initial release, we’ve fully validated the FlashSoft/VAIO combination on VMFS and NFS, and we’re confirming compatibility with a number of different implementations of Virtual Volumes, including the vVNX, EMC’s all-software emulated storage (which can present a VVOL datastore). The VAIO framework is also designed for compatibility with Virtual SAN datastores, but since FlashSoft is fundamentally designed to enable server flash in conjunction with traditional shared storage, there’s less focus on this use case for FlashSoft right now.

Better performance: Like some other caching technologies, FlashSoft for vSphere 5.x was integrated through the Pluggable Storage Architecture (PSA) APIs, which meant that IO reached the cache after passing through the VMFS storage stack. In contrast, the VAIO framework has been designed with more efficient internal architecture, enabling IO to reach the caching filter in a microsecond or less. As a developer of caching technologies using both architectures, we’ve been able to compare the effect of the more efficient design in VAIO, and we’ve seen significantly lower latency in the new design. We’ll publish some great data showing the difference soon.

Virtual disk acceleration: Another improvement in FlashSoft 4.0 is the support for acceleration of individual virtual disks. As an example, the administrator may deploy multiple virtual disks for a single VM, and choose which virtual disks to accelerate with the cache. For simple administration, entire VMs or hosts can be selected for acceleration, but caching can be turned off (or on) for any individual virtual disk.

New vCenter web client GUI: With the significant improvements to the vCenter web client GUI in VMware vSphere 6, the FlashSoft GUI is now integrated into the vSphere Web client GUI, to display a greater amount of data on operational performance in a more intuitive interface.

As we’ve said before, we think the best feature in the new FlashSoft software for VMware vSphere 6 is the peace of mind that you’ll have with a solution that’s certified VMware Ready™. The new features and capabilities of the software that we can achieve thanks to the VAIO framework are very exciting.

Exciting Times

At SanDisk, we’ve worked with the amazing VAIO team at VMware for two years now, and the realization of this first milestone for our product is something we’re really excited about. We think that the new FlashSoft 4.0 software is something that you should be excited about as well.

To learn more about FlashSoft 4.0 for vSphere 6, download the solution brief here.

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