PernixData steps up server-side flash virtualisation push

Flash-virtualisation firm PernixData unveils its European ambitions and creates an online community to interest IT pros in its software.
Written by Toby Wolpe, Contributor

After a heavily oversubscribed B funding round earlier this year, startup PernixData is pushing into Europe and giving storage and virtualisation pros free access to its software.

The flash-virtualisation company, having raised $20m in May, launched what it describes as the first hypervisor for server-side flash in August, designed to improve storage performance in virtualised environments.

Now PernixData, set up two years ago by Exadata co-founder and former VMware data group head Poojan Kumar and former VMware storage CTO Satyam Vaghani, is starting a Nordic operation, with the UK and Benelux regions to follow shortly.

It has also unveiled its PernixPro online community, giving IT professionals a number of benefits including free software licences for its FVP product and access to technical staff.

Accelerating IO performance

PernixData CEO Kumar said server-side flash has typically been used in physical environments to accelerate IO performance but has failed to find a role in virtualised infrastructures.

"The reason for that is all the fundamental features that VMware provides are clustered features — like vMotion and DRS and all that good stuff. But as soon as you put a local resource like a flash card in the server and attach a VM to it, all these things fundamentally break," Kumar said.

"That's why server flash vendors have not been able to make inroads into the virtualised enterprise datacentre. What we've done is build a software platform that runs inside the hypervisor and converts this local server flash resource into a shared resource in the cluster," he said.

The company's FVP software takes all the flash devices running across servers in a cluster and creates a pool that each VM can use as a read and write activation tier, without changes to the VM or the SAN.

"So you could be using any server, any SAN and any flash you want and suddenly accelerate your virtualised infrastructure using server-side flash," Kumar said.

The software is VMware-compatible but KVM and Microsoft versions are due in the next 18 months.

It costs $7,500 per host without restrictions on flash or VMs for the standard edition or $10,000 for the smaller business edition for up to four hosts but with limits on VM numbers and flash.

Storage as a problem-solver

"People have been used to solving their capacity and performance problems from the storage area — that's the way people are trained to think. The reason we're getting a lot of traction is that we're decoupling capacity and performance," Kumar said.

"What we're saying is you keep your storage area for what's it's good at — which is capacity and your application backup, snapshotting and DR and that kind of stuff. The performance can be got now for the first time — without touching your infrastructure — from the server side right where the VM and application are running using flash on the server," he said.

According to PernixData, its software offers advantages because it is deployed inside the kernel, which speeds up deployment and avoids resource-contention issues.

It is a clustered system so flash devices can see each other, simplifying the movement of VMs between hosts. That clustering also speeds up write-backs by synchronously replicating across flash hosts, thereby introducing fault tolerance.

Kumar said the software is also easy to deploy and use, pointing to this year's beta programme in which over 100 companies participated.

"Storage programmes usually consist of two to five customers The reason we could run a beta programme 150 end users is because the software is self-service, a download they got off the web. In less than five minutes they got it up and running without any hand-holding from us," he said.

"Click a button to install it or click a button and you can uninstall it. Nothing changes in your datacentre. The only requirement is that you've got to plug in some form of SSD or flash on your server."

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