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Fusion-io straps on NetApp feedbag for cache feeding frenzy

Virtual flash storage insanity

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NetApp and Fusion-io are working to link flash-accelerated servers with NetApp arrays and dynamically move data from the arrays to Fusion's ioMemory flash cards in the servers using NetApp's VST technology.

Fusion has issued a statement about this, saying its own server caching software will be involved as well. VST is NetApp's Virtual Storage Tiering and involves the use of flash as a cache within an array (Flash Cache) or a volume (Flash Pool) to accelerate I/O without the complexities of having separate tiers of storage with complex software moving data between the tiers to get the optimal mix of performance and storage cost-efficiency. Every other mainstream storage array vendor has embraced such tiering.

NetApp has said that it will extend VST outside its arrays and this is the first tangible indication it is doing so. NetApp has said it will work with third-party server flash cache suppliers – and here it is, working with Fusion-io.

Tim Russell, the Data Lifecycle Ecosystem Group VP at NetApp, was quoted in the release: "Fusion-io provides leading data acceleration technology that, in combination with technologies in our Virtual Storage Tier, such as Flash Cache and Flash Pool, will enable rapid, low-latency assessment of workload priorities, resulting in low-cost high performance solutions to the exponential data growth our customers face today."

Fusion's CTO, Neil Carson, was quoted in the release as well: "We believe software-defined solutions will be able to deliver much greater efficiency for customers, enabling them to do more than ever before at a fraction of the cost of legacy systems."

From NetApp's point of view, having its networked array feed individual server caches is great: no risk of sales of server caches cannibalising its array sales. Fusion is the market leader in server flash cache cards and has OEM deals with Cisco, Dell, IBM and others which is good news for NetApp as well.

HP though has said it will link its 3PAR arrays to gen 8 ProLiant servers SmartCache, so NetApp won't have a clear run there. There is obvious potential for the FlexPod converged Cisco server and networking and NetApp storage array systems to use UCS blades enhanced with Fusion flash fed by NetApp arrays.

The faster NetApp can get this cache feed linkage working, the better. ®

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