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Nevex reverses cache rules to accelerate apps

Tells the cache what to cache

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Canadian startup Nevex has launched a product which speeds applications by two-tiered solid state caching, which can be faster than just flash caching.

It means companies can get flash speed without having to load app data and file into a more expensive pure flash array.

This seemingly paradoxical idea works by having specific application and file data cached in server flash storage, and in the Windows system cache, which is in DRAM. CacheWorks software provides a file-based cache integrated with the Windows Server operating system.

System administrators can accelerate specific data by application, file type, and location. Nevex claims that "no other caching solution can proactively optimise the cache for application-specific I/O acceleration".

Andrew Flint, Nevex's product manager, said CacheWorks provides a multi-level cache: "Our [technology] operates at the Windows Server O/S level, which ... allowed us to integrate with existing Windows system cache, creating a multi-level caching solution that drives faster than Flash performance for the most active data."

The software installs on either physical or virtual servers, and uses a PCIe flash or a solid state drive (SSD) to cache active application data. Nevex says I/O-bound Windows apps like databases, business intelligence, mail servers, and transactional webservers can run up to 5X faster.

Geoff Barrall, the founder of Blue Arc and Drobo, and currently Overland Storage's chief technology officer, is a Nevex board member. He is quoted in Nevex' release: "CacheWorks’ ability to unlock the value in SSDs by seamlessly combining them with spinning disk in the server itself is nothing short of brilliant ... The product is great; we use the software here and in our environment have seen 3X acceleration in our enterprise applications."

CacheWorks runs on 64-bit Microsoft Windows Server 2003, 2008, and 2008 R2 running on a physical machine, or virtually on Windows Hyper-V or VMware, and is compatible with any Windows-supported Flash device.

Competition

How does CacheWorks compare to OCZ's Synapse hybrid disk and flash product?

Flint said: "OCZ Synapse is is the most analogous to our solution in terms of caching to local flash. OCZ's primary market thrust is at the consumer level (client PCs) whereas we are after business application servers, so there is some immediate market sector differentiation. Beyond that, we have clear product differentiation with OCZ's cache (which is an OEM of NVELO)."

OCZ Synapse is a reactive flash and there is no ability to cache data specific to particular applications or files, or integrate with the Windows system cache. What about Cache IQ?

Flint says: "Cache IQ is a NAS accelerator which operates on the NAS itself. This is a very different style of product, but in a competitive scenario we would position simply that caching on the NAS doesn’t address latency. Application data flows through the server bus, to and through the NAS cache and back. That's 500 to a 1,000 micro-seconds of latency.

"CacheWorks caches on the server itself, and operates at bus speed – 10 to 20 micro-seconds. That’s one to two orders of magnitude improvement. The same argument applies to SAN-based accelerators, or network appliance caches."

The price for CacheWorks is $2,495 per physical server. A subscription program will be made available for those customers who prefer fixed monthly expenses. An initial offer price of $1,495 is in place until "channel partners are fully established". There is limited availability now with general availability by 11 November. ®

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