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FalconStor, Violin combine on Flash SAN accelerator

Dave Raffo

FalconStor Software next week will launch a SAN accelerator gateway that uses Flash solid-state drives (SSDs) from Violin Memory

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Inc. to increase performance of Fibre Channel (FC) and iSCSI storage arrays.

The FalconStor NSS SAN Accelerator combines FalconStor's Network Storage Server (NSS) and storage management software with the Violin 1010 Memory Appliance. FalconStor said the accelerator, which uses the Violin module as a caching device, can improve the performance of any SAN.

FalconStor claims the gateway significantly increases the speed of writes through a SafeCache that devotes a segment of solid-state memory to application writes, and random reads through a HotZone feature that copies data on hot disk sectors to cache.

With the SAN Accelerator, FalconStor joins the growing legion of storage vendors incorporating solid state in their storage products, either as add-ons to their arrays or as separate devices to boost performance as FalconStor has done.

"This is our solid-state story," said Fadi Albatal, vice president (VP) of product marketing at FalconStor. "We're implementing solid state within storage, not to have a different or high-end storage tier, but to provide global acceleration to all applications and all storage resources within the SAN."

The Violin 1010 Memory Appliance is a 2U box that supports from 500 GB to 4 TB of PCIe-based SSD, and connects to NSS servers. Violin claims a peek performance of more than 220,000 sustained random write IOPS, 350,000 random read IOPS and latency of 20-70 usec access times. The Violin modules are single-level cell (SLC) devices, but Violin VP of product marketing Matt Barletta said the vendor is working on lower-cost multi-level cell (MLC) products.

FalconStor has offered HotZone as a policy-driven I/O performance optimizer for NSS (formerly known as IPStor) since 2002, and tweaked that feature for its solid-state drive SAN Accelerator. Hot zones are sectors where data is more likely to be accessed. The firm's Albatal claims by copying that data to the SSD layer, NSS uses one-third of the CPU cycles than it would without the cache.

Both vendors said integrating SSD through PCIe is more efficient than placing it in the area, as large storage vendors EMC Corp., IBM, Hewlett-Packard (HP) Co. and Hitachi Data Systems have done.

"The problem is we're still limited by some of those protocols like Fibre Channel, and aggregation technologies today don't work," Violin Memory's Barletta said. "You can't stack SSDs like traditional hard drives, for instance."

FalconStor is the first vendor to announce that it is using Violin technology. Barletta said Violin Memory is working on other partnerships that "we can't talk about yet."

Pricing for the FalconStor NSS SAN Accelerator starts at $32,000 for one solid-state memory array with 500 GB of RAID-protected storage capacity. The accelerator supports up to 8 TB of SSD capacity.

James Bagley, senior analyst at Austin, Texas-based Storage Strategies NOW, said we're likely to see more offerings of SSDs in the array and as cache, especially since he expects the cost of solid-state drives to match those of high-speed Fibre Channel enterprise drives by the end of 2010.

"There's a proliferation of products that drop an SSD into a SAN to make it faster," Bagley said. "FalconStor is using Flash as a high-speed read cache and also has a high-speed intake staging area. It can log writes in cache, and synchronize the output with RAID ingestion on the drives."

Among products from mainstream storage vendors, the NSS Accelerator is most similar to NetApp's Performance Acceleration Module (PAM). Texas Memory System sells Fibre Channel SSD arrays as well as PCIe-based SSDs. WhipTail Technologies also sells SSD arrays, and Dataram Corp. has an XcelaSAN appliance that does block-based caching for Fibre Channel storage. Avere Inc.' Avere FXT Series and Storspeed Inc.'s SP5000 are caching devices for NAS storage. Adaptec Inc. also offers what it calls hybrid SSDs, which consist of its MaxIQ caching software and Intel SSDs with Adaptec storage controllers.

 


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