Sunday, April 21, 2013

PernixData - A Solution to a Problem You Wish You Had

I've been reading about PernixData over the last few days. It's an interesting company with an interesting product: virtualization and commoditization of server-side flash storage. Not familiar with server-side flash? Here's a quick primer:

Take your classic SAN-attached server topology. You've got a server connected to a FiberChannel network, an FC switch or two, and a pair storage processors at the other end. On your server, you've got an application that relies on the SAN to provide its data. While CPU speed and core density increase, and memory capacity improves, storage latency is largely unchanged.

Enter server-side flash. Server-side flash acts as a cache for data on your SAN. Each time your application needs to read data from the SAN, that data is cached on the flash card. The next time that data is requested, it's read from cache, which greatly reduces the time it takes to access the data. It's cool stuff. Fusion-io is a big player here, but there are others as well.

PernixData's FVP (flash virtualization platform) software promises to take all of your server-side flash and make it available for your hypervisor. There's not much technical information available on their web site yet, so the details of how this will be implemented are unknown. Duncan Epping and Frank Denneman posted great write-ups of the company and its technology on their blogs; they're privy to more technical information than most. I would guess it will work like a VSA: create datastores on local flash, then replicate those datastores out across your cluster.

In my opinion, PernixData has a solution to a problem you wish you had: what to do with all that server-side flash. Flash is still somewhat expensive, and it's not common to see server-side flash in small to mid-sized environments. But take a look at some of the people behind PernixData. They're not just techies; they're some of the guys who made VMware the virtualization powerhouse it is today. They're probably not far off in their thinking, just a year or two ahead.

Incidentally, I traded a few messages with Satyam Vaghani over the weekend via LinkedIn. I'm happy to share that he's not only a wicked smart guy who can say things like "wrote VMFS" on his resume, but he's also a nice guy who's happy to meet people in the industry.

Keep an eye on PernixData. They're onto something here.