EMC unveils VFCache, targets Fusion-io

EMC's VFCache is designed to meld the storage array to the server. The storage giant is targeting Fusion-io in an effort to bring more Flash memory to data centers.

EMC on Monday will take the wraps off VFCache, an effort formerly known as Project Lightning that aims to make Flash technology and caching software the norm servers. With the move, EMC is setting its sights on Fusion-io, a recently public company that has jumped out to an early lead.

In an interview, EMC Chief Operating Officer Pat Gelsinger said the company is confident that its Flash technology and the combination of PCIe will bolster enterprise applications. EMC's testing in an Oracle environment showed a 3x throughput improvement and a 50 percent cut in latency.

"We're taking storage into computing. Our caching model on the server has persistence and is an extension of the array," said Gelsinger.

In a nutshell, EMC's VFCache adds another tier to the storage array. Typically, hot data is on Flash for quick access and information that isn't time pressing can go on drives. VFCache means there's another degree of hot data. "This represents another tier of storage for the hottest of hot data," said Gelsinger. "Almost all major enterprise apps---Oracle, SQL, SharePoint, SAP---can benefit."

EMC is initially targeting Web-based companies as well as verticals such as financial services that need to store and surface data in a hurry. Ultimately, Gelsinger said that databases supporting CRM, ERP and other standard apps will get a boost. Meanwhile, EMC's VFCache technology plugs in with the company's Symmetrix and VNX storage arrays as well as the company's FAST (Fully Automated Storage Tiering) architecture. That move gives EMC a large installed base to target.

According to Gelsinger, VFCache will plug into existing servers and storage arrays. EMC also plans to add deduplication technology to VFCache later in 2012.

EMC is betting that it can beat FusionIO via integration with existing systems and enterprise support. "FusionIO is the leader early, but we have a substantial difference in approach," said Gelsinger. "At the same time, I recognize that we have large storage and enterprise sales forces."

What's next? EMC said that it is previewing Project Thunder, which is an effort to take VFCache and translate it into a Flash-based appliance. EMC, which wouldn't provide the timing for Project Thunder to become a real product, said that the appliances will deliver millions of inputs and outputs in microseconds. Project Thunder will be rack mounted server array with two VFCache cards per server. The appliances will be used when there are no slots available in high density data centers, said Gelsinger.