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Flash Virtualization Software Unveiled

By - Source: FlashSoft | B 18 comments

FlashSoft announced that it has secured $3 million in financing and used that opportunity to come out of hiding and provide a few details about its flash virtualization software, called FlashSoft SE.

The company uses software to enable SSDs and PCIe flash memory devices as server-tier read-write cache and accelerate the overall performance of databases and other applications on servers.

The software addresses a general cost and performance problem in data centers. While flash processes data much faster than hard drives, the cost is often prohibitive. However, Flash virtualization can cut the amount of necessary Flash memory significantly, while increasing the application performance by a factor of four to ten, FlashSoft claims.

It basically manages the data is most often and most likely used in a limited capacity of flash. The company believes that only 10% of available data needs to be kept close to the server and on flash, while 90% of data that is more than 90 days old may never be accessed and does not need expensive flash storage. The management of Flash memory requires RAM horsepower. However, the company said that 100 MB of RAM is good enough to manage 1 TB of flash.

FlashSoft SE is available for Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 R2 now and is expected to be released for Linux later this summer. The software requires a minimum SSD size of 8GB and works up to capacities of 1 TB. A free demo version can be download from the company's website.

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  • 1 Hide
    dalauder , July 1, 2011 2:08 AM
    I've gotta get my Windows 2008 Server up and try this out! It sounds like it could be pretty awesome.

    Eh...maybe I'll just wait and do it on Linux. Then I can try it on my laptop...maybe.
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    brandonjclark , July 1, 2011 2:54 AM
    As a storage and virtualization architect for the 58th largest company in the world, let me tell you that we are excited about this.
  • 0 Hide
    brandonjclark , July 1, 2011 2:55 AM
    I should add that software such as this can reduce or negate the need for an enterprise filer, such as a NetApp or IBM Nseries.
  • Display all 18 comments.
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    knowom , July 1, 2011 4:04 AM
    So how is t his software any different than Supercache/Supervolume which have been around for awhile now and are very tweak able.

    Tom's Hardware needs to get with the program I've been using Supercache/Supervolume to do the same thing for a solid year now.

    One more thing Supercache/Supervolume works for any type of storage device partition including, but not limited to SD flash or USB flash which it can drastically improve to the point of astonishment.
  • 0 Hide
    RazberyBandit , July 1, 2011 4:10 AM
    The tech sounds a lot like Intel's SSD caching, only intended for server environments and database deployment.
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    applegetsmelaid , July 1, 2011 4:47 PM
    It's stuff like this that renews my faith in humanity.
  • 3 Hide
    rpetersen , July 1, 2011 5:08 PM
    Full disclosure: I'm with FlashSoft.

    @brandonjclark, you are right. When 75% of server IO runs to the SSD in the server over a PCIe or SAS interface, the load on the SAN is greatly reduced.

    @knowom, Supercache/Supervolume are good caching options, especially for a RAM disk. FlashSoft is designed specifically for caching on enterprise SSD architectures to accelerate server applications, so we never thought about caching on media like SD cards or USB drives.

    We haven't seen Supercache considered for the scenarios in which FlashSoft is used, so we haven't really investigated it. If there's any good documentation online for using Supercache with a SAS or PCIe SSD that's 128GB or larger, that would be the kind of scenario we'd want to compare against.

    @RazberyBandit, you are exactly right. The biggest issue for PCs is OS boot time and application launching, and Intel seems to be taking that on in a very smart way. On servers, we try to reduce IO latency to improve DB performance & workload, as well as VM performance and density. So server-focused caching may use different amounts of SSD and apply different algorithms to prioritize what should go in the cache.
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , July 2, 2011 3:27 AM
    Big one step to SBC, I am expecting. Qestion is how to config RAID structure on the PCIe cold memory?
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , July 2, 2011 5:45 AM
    @knowom, As rpetersen mentioned, it's for SSD.. not ram drives. I would be curious as to how well supercache peforms in a vmware environment given how memory is dynamically allocated... Although seeing as how they are microsoft partners, maybe it plays nice with hyper-v.

    Basically, better SSD caching would be a godsend especially to microsoft and their somewhat restricted 2008r2 storage server. It would be it something comparable to ZFS and the ability to utilize SSD as read/write cache rather then just having a fixed tier storage option. I would hope to get this to a similar level where you could in effect have the ability to move data amongst different tiers of data instead of just having SSD's act as cache as well. Say have being able to have raid1 SSD drives as fixed drives and raid 0 drives act as the cache.

    Something like this would be nice to match the abilities of say a compellent SAN we use, where you could conceivably setup things with generic equipment, have similar functionality of a ZFS storage but have the "nicer" gui of windows.

    I really do wish they did come out with more ram drives though.. You can never beat system memory serving up as a cache and its even nicer when you don't have to take away from your system memory to do it.
  • 0 Hide
    RazberyBandit , July 2, 2011 7:16 AM
    @RazberyBandit, you are exactly right. The biggest issue for PCs is OS boot time and application launching, and Intel seems to be taking that on in a very smart way. On servers, we try to reduce IO latency to improve DB performance & workload, as well as VM performance and density. So server-focused caching may use different amounts of SSD and apply different algorithms to prioritize what should go in the cache.

    Rpeterson, thanks for the reply. Can you explain how your tech is any different than say GridIron's Turbocharger? On the surface, all these SSD file caching techs seem just about the same...
  • 1 Hide
    fir_ser , July 2, 2011 5:30 PM
    Interesting software and the improved performance that it can offer is amazing, hope I can see a review for this software.
  • 0 Hide
    rpetersen , July 2, 2011 7:41 PM
    @RazberyBandit, Good point. All SSD caching technologies have to figure out what the hot data is and make sure it goes on the SSD. Some approaches work at the file level, especially if dedicated to accelerating a specific kind of application, VM platform or database. FlashSoft handles data at the block level. Also, while GridIron does its "thinking" in an appliance, FlashSoft does it in software that runs in the server (to the OS, it looks like a block-level filter driver). Lastly, you attach the SSD that you'll use with FlashSoft to the server directly, so in the case of a PCIe flash card, data access speed is around 20 microseconds. There are a lot of SSD-based SAN and storage boxes, but they're in the SAN, so access speed is in the hundreds of microseconds at the least.

    @Iwamoto-san, I hope I understand your question correctly. If you have 2 SSDs, they can be used in RAID 1 (or RAID 0, if you like).

    @fir_ser, we have a couple of reviews in the works now, and we're providing the software to some well-known industry reviewers now. If there's somebody who you think really knows his/her stuff wrt Windows server, please tell us. Thanks!
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , July 4, 2011 6:23 AM
    This is certainly great news!I can't tell you how excited i am..Anyone interested in finding out more features should definetly check out this article..
  • 0 Hide
    greenit , July 8, 2011 7:13 PM
    I did a search and looked around quite a bit, but haven't seen any mention in the press of how this technology (meaning SSDs in general too) will help data centers become more "green" (save energy or is this an N/A factor?) or whether it will increase or decrease server/storage requirements, etc. or just cause IT depts to just buy more or everything? One thing is for sure, FlashSoft has great buzz already:
  • 1 Hide
    rpetersen , July 8, 2011 9:00 PM
    @greenit, today's energy hogs in storage are small, high-speed (15,000rpm) disk drives, and whether you use SSD in the storage array or in the server with software like FlashSoft, you reduce the need for those drives, because your hot IO is running in solid state, and the data that isn't hot is generally fine on larger, more efficient 7200rpm drives.

    An interesting stat I've heard is that every watt saved in energy consumption saves another watt in cooling. This blog post says it's actually 2.84 watts saved. In any case, reducing or eliminating 15k rpm HDDs is the first, most significant way that SSDs reduce energy consumption. Server consolidation - having an accelerated server take on the work of several others - is another way to reduce energy consumption.

    Samsung has a little info on "Green SSDs" here: (click on the SSD link).
  • 0 Hide
    greenit , July 11, 2011 9:39 PM
    @rpetersen - very interesting stat and blog post - thanks.
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    Anonymous , July 26, 2011 9:11 PM
    I currently have servers with lots of RAM and the settings of LargeSystemCache=1 (registry) and NTFSMemeoryUsage set to 2 and other settings mentioned here;

    Why would I be better off buying your product versus buying more RAM and making these optimizations to Windows?

    This means that I'm using RAM to cache IOPS from the SAN, Local HDD, and CIFS.
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    rpetersen , July 26, 2011 10:27 PM
    No question that data access for RAM is faster than SSD, so if you can do that, it seems the best approach. Caching on SSD may be preferable in some situations, e.g. if purchasing a sufficient amount of RAM would be prohibitively expensive or if your server doesn't have capacity for the amount RAM that would be required. A cost/performance comparison would be very interesting, but I haven't seen one yet that compares caching in RAM versus SSD.