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SanDisk goes hard for soft VMware server caches

Forget cameras, the real action is speeding up virty machines

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SanDisk is touting a VMware server cache that could accelerate applications three to five times and increase the number of virtual machines a host can support by 100 to 200 per cent.

SanDisk has a long history of shipping consumer flash memory for gadgets including cameras and digital video recorders. It's lately moved into the enterprise server flash market, buying the Pliant controller business, the FlashSoft Windows and Linux PCIe caching business, Schooner Information Technology for its cacheing software, and launching server and client SSDs.

FlashSoft 3.0 supports VMware vSphere, installs in the host operating system and there are no agents in the virtual machines. It is implemented as an ESXi kernel module, and supports ESXi cluster features such as high-availability and vMotion, and full VDI support. It provides faster access to solid-state drives (SSDs) by bypassing the ESXi IO stack.

Any PCIe flash card, SAS or SATA SSDs can be used as the cache. Data needed by applications executing inside virtual machines is cached in the flash memory, avoiding time-consuming disk IO waits.

SanDisk says FlashSoft automatically ensures optimal cache usage per virtual machine, and assigns cache space dynamically even as new virtual machines are added. Cache content is preserved in the event of a virtual machine restart or host reboot, and cache metadata is restored in milliseconds. A vCenter plugin enables FlashSoft function management through the vCenter GUI.

SanDisk is competing with cache software suppliers Proximal Data, Nevex, NVelo and VeloBit. EMC has its VFCache product which does read caching. Fusion-io has ioTurbine, LSI has CacheCade, STEC has EnhanceIO and OCZ has SANRAD caching software. It's a crowded area.

The manufacturer's recommended pricing for a software licence per server is $3,000 for FlashSoft on Windows, $3,500 for Linux, and $3,900 for the VMware version. ®

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